BY REBECCA BENNETT — The number of noticeable patches of torn up grass and muddy bike tracks where the Hyattsville Cyclocross bike race came through on Oct. 4 are diminishing. This year’s event was almost postponed because of heavy rain that had fallen the week prior. According to the City of Hyattsville, the green space will be fixed and the race course was altered to avoid the sports fields.
“The city takes great pride in our parks and fields and we work hard to maintain and beautify them. As a result, we took very seriously the weather the week before the event,” City Administrator Tracey Nicholson said.
“We were straight up with them, it’s going to be hugely muddy, there’s no way around it,” Chris Militello said. Militello, along with Chris Davidson own Arrow Bicycle and organized the Hyattsville Cyclocross.
Rescheduling the race would have posed challenges. The Hyattsville Cyclocross is the first race in a series of the eight biggest bike races in the Washington, D.C. Metro region. Race organizers said the Hyattsville race is the second largest in the series.
If the race was canceled, Militello said they would have had to refund all 550 bikers their money, because everything is now done online ahead of time.
The first available date to reschedule was Dec. 20, which organizers said meant they would probably have to leave the Super 8 series. They would also have to attempt to reschedule race officials, timing chips, port-a-potties and not conflict with other races.
The Hyattsville Cyclocross, which benefits the Special Olympics, is an event the city said it is proud to support. The race is a big win for the city, organizers said.
Two days before the race, organizers said they were in the park for three hours with city officials and staff in the rain to determine how to hold the event and minimize impact by rerouting the race.
Nicholson said the group found that the trail through the woods was in great shape because of the regular maintenance and mulching done by the Department of Public Works and volunteers.
“We knew there would be impact to all grass, but were already planning to seed and topdress the park at the end of the sports season, which we do every year,” Nicholson said. “So, when race organizers confirmed that they could re-route the race so as not to touch any sports fields, we made the decision to host the event.”
Militello said they tried very hard not to damage the sports fields. Announcers told people to keep off the fields, to not even walk on them, he said. The rerouting meant racers had to go where the runoff went down to, so the course was muddier.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The rain was a huge draw for racers, organizers said, because they rarely get to race in those conditions. There were approximately 40 fewer kid racers, though.
More than a month after the race, Nicholson said park visitors can still see where the race caused minimal impact, but there are many areas the city is proud to report a full recovery. Nicholson said what’s most noticeable is where the city dressed the fields with compost and new grass is sprouting. She said the city is confident the areas that were the wettest will rebound well.
Race organizers said they try to leave the park in better condition than they found it, going so far as having their 60-member team walk the park for trash after the race.
“We want to be invited back. We want residents to be a part of it. … We think the race is a great thing for the community,” organizers said.